Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Orcas Alaska Style

Golden sunny skies woke me this morning and even though my eyes were still clouded in sleep dust, I bounced out of bed so I could go and standby and hopefully get on our Captain's Choice tour this morning. The Captain's Choice is our posh tour. The boat caps out at 16 pax unlike our single haul and cat's which cap @ 138. The trip is tailored for those with a strong interest in photography and bird watching, up close and personal. The bigger boats get crowded and when there is a sighting everyone excitedly crowds everyone else in hopes of that perfect shot. Anyway, I was very excited when I got on and I knew it was going to be a fabulous and magnificent day on the high waters of South Central Alaska. Captain Dan O who is also our Orca Id guy met everyone and took us down the M/V Misty where would spend the day gallivanting around chasing tails and feathers around Kenai fjords. It didn't hurt that the day was golden sunny and it appeared that the seas were calm, at least for now. Once we untied we were on our merry way in hopes of spotting those black and white friends of mine that call this their home. Actually today was literally a black and white day when I think about it. Not long after we began our venture out, another boat had spotted a Humpback. Lately the humpbacks have been further out, not so much in Resurrection Bay. This Humpback wasn't very active and we didn't get the opportunity to view it's fluke. Humpbacks can be Id's by their fluke and all the Humpbacks here in Alaska have been identified. Most of the resident Orcas as well have been id'd, yet there are more here than in the San Juan Islands, so recognizing them can be a challenging task.

Not long after that we got a report from another boat that there was a pod of Orcas. Lo and behold it was the AK6's one of the more commony sighted pods in the area. This family has gone through a lot of changes apparently, however due to the excellent ID knowledge of Captain Dan O we knew exactly whom we were viewing. There was the big Male Eldorado, and his Mom Cheval... also followed by another male whose Dorsal fin is seen in my photo here named Hive.... funny he doesn't exactly look like a bee... they traveled with us for quite awhile and there was a lot of fun activity as you can view in my short video I took. Also, Dan put the hydrophone into the water so we could listen to them. It really was joyful and brought tears to my eyes. This was a great start to an absolutely amazing day ahead. As we headed out of Rez Bay as I call and about to get closer to the Aialik Cape we spotted another group. This time we were seeing the AD8's.. also pretty awesome. AD22 known as Skana was showing some signs of maybe a possible dance out of the water, yet we were pretty happy to just be with them.
Once we went around the cape we entered Aialik Bay en route to the largest tidewater glacier in the park, The Aialik glacier. Before getting closer to the glacier, another group was spotted, although Dan did not know these whales and since they were resting we kept our distance even more and continued to the glacier. Dan climbed on top of the boat to spot a good navigational route through the ice, I am sure a challenging venture, yet he did a fabulous job and we made our way within a quarter of a mile. Observing the glacier and a few thunders later we viewed some calving. This was also our lunch spot and to quietly observe the Mother Harbor Seals and pups hauled out on icebergs. The day could of not been better. We lucked out with great weather, lots of Orcas and two pods of Dalls Porpoise who rode our wake for quite awhile. A simply fantabulous adventure. I feel such gratitude to have all these opportunities to see this vision of beauty all around me.

The day continued it's course of outstanding weather, we had sunny skies the entire day, however we did run into some choppy water. Even though the sun was golden and nicely warm, the wind began to kick up so we had some chops.. Not to worry it only last 20 minutes or so, then you are back in a bay where it is protected. The Captain's Choice tour tends to attract people who are Bird Watchers and or Pro or almost Pro photographers. We had some French people on board who really wanted to see Pelagic Birds, and believe me there were more than enough Puffins for everyone. It was awesome as usual with all of them flying low or swimming gracefully in the water. After a full day, the tour is nine hours long, the boat was beginning to rock me to sleep, and I kept catching myself nodding off and almost falling off my seat. Thankfully this was on our way back in, and most of our sightings had been earlier in the day. All I can say is Awesome, Amazing, Incredible and stupendous.... can't really describe it.

Today was mellow, just hung out in town and then went to a Sales Workshop which I was paid overtime for. I am glad I did the trip yesterday since today seem to really be one of downtime. So stay tuned for further adventures and reports of my glorious adventures.

Don't forget to watch the video, I took this early in the day, and Captain Dan O had just dropped the hydrophone in the water to listen to the Orcas. Awesome and amazing it was.... brought tears to my wee eyes......

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